Ever since Inu x Boku SS first drew my attention to the subject in June of this year, I’ve been quite interested in the concept of anime in the context of its broader commercial impact. It’s not exactly counter-intuitive to point out that anime doesn’t get made in a vacuum where disk sales, important as they are, are the only thing that determine the success or failure of a project. There are many factors that play into that equation; licensing cash, character goods sales, TV ratings, etc.
But manga sales are particularly interesting for two reasons. First, we can track them fairly easily; animenewsnetwork keeps English-language versions of the weekly Oricon rankings of manga that date back to 2008, so there’s a lot of baseline data that we can compare with newer series. So when Blue Exorcist did Blue Exorcist things…
What follows is an analysis of how manga to get an anime adaptation in 2011 fared overall at the marketplace, with a look at when and why publishers chipping in for an adaptation ala Shonen Sunday in 2013 is a good business move in theory (while still hinging, as everything ultimately does, on competent execution).
I’m pretty ok with Yozakura Quartet getting its second crack at TV anime this season. It’s a series with a lot of potential; if nothing else, the power to produce machine guns out of thin air that fire when you say bang-bang is a unique one. But the manga is a repetitive criminally slow-paced monthly, the first anime was a hopelessly melodramatic show that failed to top 1000 in average volume sales, and the second, OVA-based anime was a thinly-veiled sakuga showcase. It’s a series that definitely could get over the hump, and clearly people care enough to keep trying.
But why? I’ve got no financial explanation. Given that its season 1 sales were less than borderline and the OVA failed to chart, the fact that it’s still getting anime is impressive and puts it in a very small circle. It’s not that the new series has been promoting the manga like a Blue Exorcist or an Inu x Boku SS either; the 7th volume in 2009 and the 13th volume in 2013 logged near-identical 70,000 volume sales totals. The most popular installment on myanimelist is only about 800th in popularity, so I doubt it’s even a max-money license show. It’s probably one of the 5 or 10 least explicable sequels to be made in the past 10 years. If I ever find out an definitive answer to this question, even if that answer is “passion project funded by the mangaka or the studio”, expect that to be its own article. But right now, there really isn’t one.
This past year, viz media pulled off a first for the non-Japan manga industry. I’m referring to Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital “magazine” offering same-week release of the chapters of some 11 Weekly Shonen Jump manga. It’s pretty cool, and at 26$/year for 48 issues (and a buck per back issue), it’s not a totally unreasonable subscription fee. But that specific business model, one of same-week releases for official translations, is unfortunately not something that’s likely to be transferable to the majority of manga. Especially seinen and josei series with smaller fanbases. If you’ve ever wondered if the manga translation industry will catch up to where the anime industry is now with simulcasts, this article discusses the depressing reality of the situation and why such an outcome is relatively unlikely.
Update 2 (July 15, 2014): New, more accurate data is here.
Update (Jul 1, 2014): This post doesn’t measure releases in 2-week totals, which turns out to be a huge deal in many, many cases. I’m currently working on an updated version of both this and the other 2011-2012 manga boost posts. Just be aware of that before citing the data from here regarding any one show.
Some time ago, I published an article looking at how anime adaptations produced in early 2012 affected the sales of their source manga. It was interesting data to take a look at, and it was interesting to see which anime really boosted the manga sales. Long story short, there are cases where a manga really jumps from mid-tier to franchise level (Space Brothers, Kuroko’s Basketball, Inu x Boku SS) soon after the anime airs, and cases where the anime doesn’t have much visible effect.
It was very intriguing to look at, but it wasn’t a sample large enough to draw real definitive conclusions from. So I’ve recently been pulling sales records for manga that had an anime adaptation air in 2011, to get a better idea of how the two media are interrelated. This post contains the first half of that data, specifically the data for which I have specific totals from both before and after the anime first aired, and some observations on that data.
“[…] Nagahama says he’s well aware that a lot of people will go “what the fuck” and “this is gross,” “I hate this, I’m not watching this.” But he’s pretty much okay with that, too, because he thinks it’s fine as long as it leaves an impact on people. Viewers may dismiss it right away, but some may check it out later and find it interesting, or they may come across the manga, recognize the title, and read that.”
That may seem provocative, but it’s actually a fairly common philosophy in the business of anime for a publisher to fund a loss leader, in this case an unprofitable anime that stimulates manga sales. There’s quite a bit of evidence that this can work, though anime serving as a commercial for the manga generally has to stand out to drive up manga sales. I believe numbers inform the debate, so it’s worth taking a look at how that gambit played out.
Indeed, the eighth volume of Aku no Hana, the first one out after the anime aired, showed a little over double the sales of the first volume. So there’s a pretty strong case that the anime got the manga more attention. The more interesting question for me is this: in the face of seemingly abysmal sales of the anime’s first volume set to come out in late July, could the increased sales of the manga still make the anime successful? For the purposes of this article, “successful” means that it produced a gross profit equal to its production budget.
Based on what I’ve seen of reactions to Free on the internet, it seems like a large quantity of people are ruling it out with one glance at the promo material rather than 20 minutes of episode time. It’s becoming increasingly obvious how much of a shame that is, because this show is complete in ways it didn’t even have to be to be an enjoyable ride.
When I saw the first couple episodes of Blue Exorcist, I got the impression of a show that would be right at home on adult swim. It had flashy priests vs. demons action, decent drama, and a somewhat over-the-top plot (satan’s son on a quest for revenge against dear ol’ dad). That is pretty much how it played out, and the result was a notable, if imperfect show in one of the greatest seasons in recent memory.
Key art always looks like this, but A-1 makes the actual show look almost as smooth